N.Y. Times, Aug. 9, 2013
By David Firestone
Earlier this year, Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, announced plans to rebrand the Republican Party, improving “health, happiness and prosperity for more Americans and their families.” In case you took any of that seriously, take a good look at the food stamp proposal Mr. Cantor unveiled a few days ago, one of the more brutal actions Republicans have taken against the poor since they took over the House in 2011.
In June, the Republican plan to cut food stamps by $2 billion a year led to the failure of the farm bill — because House conservatives wanted even bigger cuts. House leaders then revived the bill to provide $196 billion to big agriculture, dropping the food stamp program entirely and promising to bring it back “later.”
Later has arrived, and the plan is worse than ever. Mr. Cantor wants to cut $4 billion a year, double the earlier cut, by removing up to 4 million people from the food stamp program. His method of kicking all those people off is particularly diabolical, considering the Republican refusal to stimulate the economy: he wants to punish those unable to find a job. Anyone who is unemployed and not raising children will be limited to three months of food stamps every three years.
This requirement has been on the books since 1996, but it was routinely waived by most states during and after the recession, as high unemployment caused widespread suffering. Mr. Cantor wants to eliminate those waivers, with no exceptions. Under Mr. Cantor’s plan, it won’t matter how hard people are looking for work, or how high unemployment might be in their state.
Mr. Cantor’s plan would slash benefits for many of the poorest people in the United States, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Their average annual income is $2,500; many are desperate for work but cannot find any. Joblessness may have been reduced in the last two years but it is still far too high, particularly among those with the least skills.
“As a result of the proposed cuts, many of these individuals would fall deeper into destitution,” according to an analysis by the center issued on Wednesday. “Some would likely experience hunger as well as homelessness; money spent on food isn’t available to pay the rent, and with income this low, it can be very difficult to do both.”
As David Rogers explained in Politico this morning, the 1996 proposal to take away food stamps from the jobless assumed that most states would offer workfare programs in exchange for the benefits. But Washington never provided enough money to allow states to create those programs. Only five states offered workfare or job training programs last year.
The House Republicans’ pointless and heartless demands for more austerity are holding back economic growth. Now they want to strip government relief for those who are left behind.